Saturday, February 23rd, 2002 will always be remembered as the night we lost a true original. I turned on the goggle box and was giving my remote control finger a workout when I hit CNN.
On the channel was a pompous pundit pontificating on pointless political perversities when my eyes caught something shocking on the screen’s ever-present scroll-bar. ACADEMY AWARD WINNING ANIMATOR CHUCK JONES DEAD AT 89…
You could have knocked me down with a feather. If I could ever claim any one filmmaker who I truly wanted to meet, it was Chuck Jones. His blend of broad slapstick mayhem and subtle characterisation set a standard of comedy that many can’t match today.
His résumé reads like a mantra of classic animation. WHAT’S OPERA DOC?, ONE FROGGY EVENING, HOPALONG CASUALTY, THE DOT & THE LINE, THE GRINCH, and my personal favourite DUCK AMUCK. He saw the potential of animation as more than just a vehicle for stories and sight gags and made it into a true art form.
Even as a little kid, I looked for the name Charles M. Jones in the credits because, to me, it meant quality. It meant funny. I used to laugh myself into fits over the madcap antics of Daffy, Bugs, Porky, Elmer, and of course Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. He took the next step from the ground broken by his colleague and mentor Tex Avery, and added his mastery of subtle expression to punctuate and amplify the comedy.
We’ve all seen the Coyote squished with an anvil and if that were it, it would be just another gag. Jones added those wonderful expressions. Not the bulging eyes, or three foot wide screams of others, but faces that were subtle, almost realistic. A slightly raised eyebrow, a small twitch of fear, or a trembling of a lip made the jokes into the comic equivalent of the A-bomb, flattening everything in his way.
The word genius is overused and often wasted on purveyors of pretentious crap that scream: “It’s art it’s good for you! It’s supposed to be painful and dull, IT’S ART!”
Charles M. Jones was a true genius in every sense of the word. He broke ground, broke rules, and redefined comedy for the world. His work was pure pleasure, proof that art didn’t have to be painful.
I was part of the last generation to really enjoy the work of Chuck and his colleagues. When we were kids, the networks started chopping up the classics or banning them outright. Too violent, too politically incorrect, they said, but their alternative was worse. Bland, dry, totally lifeless creations that were more interested in selling merchandise than making people laugh.
A genius like Chuck Jones didn’t fit in this new corporate, hocus-pocus-focus group worshipping age. His comedy was too sharp, too cutting, too subversive. I think if kids were given a daily dose of Chuck Jones cartoons, we wouldn’t have a lot of the problems we’re having with them today. They’d think a little more about what they’re spending their parent’s hard-earned money on and demand more quality. Of course, that would end the music/movie career of Britney Spears and too many corporations depend on her to let that happen.
However, I digress. I’ll end this little rant with a fond farewell to Mr. Jones; the millions who were inspired and awed by your work will miss you. I know I will.
Check out FILMTHREAT.com’s FEATURE ARCHIVES and read more insightful stories, expert analysis, gut-busting satire and caustic commentary!